Vaxholm dispute goes to European Court

The European Court will decide whether a blockade of a building site near Stockholm by the Byggnads builders union is legal.

Byggnads launched a blockade of the building site in Vaxholm after Laval, a Latvian company, was given the contract to build a school on the site. The union was upset that Laval’s Latvian workers had not signed Swedish collective agreements.

The Labour Court made an interim decision in favour of the union if December, allowing Byggnads to continue its blockade of the Vaxholm site. At the time, the court said that it did not believe that EU law was relevant to the case.

The court, in referring the case to the European Court, has now reversed its earlier decision and admitted that European law could have a bearing on the case.

Erland Olauson, collective agreement secretary for union organisation LO, said he thought it very unlikely that the European Court would declare Swedish strike rules to be illegal:

“It would be very serious if EU law were to mean that we were not allowed to use Swedish methods to prevent an apartheid system – a system in which wages and other conditions of employment vary depending on whether an employee in a Swedish workplace comes from Stockholm or Riga.”

The Confederation of Swedish Industry welcomed the decision to send the case to the EU Court.

“The current unclear situation surrounding foreign companies temporarily undertaking work in Sweden is unsustainable,” said deputy managing director Jan-Peter Duger.

“The dispute in Vaxholm involves a number of important questions of EU law to do with the free movement of services and the unions’ possibilities to block the work of foreign companies.”